20 March 2012

Youth In Cemetery

Leadville Girl Scouts
 Are kids, our next generation, interested in genealogy?

Well, maybe not. But I think we can do something about that. For the past year, I have been working with a local Girl Scout Troop in Leadville, Colorado. I have three nieces in the group, and my sister is one of the leaders, so it was a pretty easy and natural thing for me to be involved, and to be excited about the chance to pass my passion on to someone else. Someone young.

Author and family with the
Cose family marker.
We started last summer by taking the girls to the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. We had a local history buff tour us through the headstones, and she was wonderful and full of information. She showed them different kinds of graves, different areas of the cemetery (i.e. The Elks, I.O.O.F.), and told a lot of entertaining stories. About half way through though, she lost her audience. The girls just stopped listening. They wanted to either be entertained or entertain themselves.

After the "official" tour, I stepped in. I talked to the group about headstone rubbings, and we practiced on a few newer graves. They had over sized paper and a crayon. They were pretty happy for about ten minutes. Most of the kids started to filter home at this point, and that was okay. They were done.

I had something else completely in mind for my nieces however. There was a headstone I needed to find. At the time, they were 7 and 9 years, so I told them we were going on a scavenger hunt. That perked them right up! I gave them a general area of the cemetery, which we found using the map I brought along, and set them loose. They were excited because they were in charge, and they had a goal. We'd been at the cemetery for over two hours at this point, and no other goal had been established for the group. I think that was mistake #1.

We did find who I was looking for, even though I ended up actually finding her, and not the girls. Catherine J. (Daniels) Cose, 1858-1941. She was the sister of my 2nd great aunt, and I had just recently made the connection to the Leadville area.  I could not believe how excited they were to find her and her family! To them, it was real. It wasn't just names on paper with dates and random stories about a person they'll never meet, it was there, in front of them. For the first time, we had evidence that someone else in our family had lived in Leadville; we had always thought that my sister's family were the first to be in the area. And here was someone that was in their town. 


The question is, "is the next generation interested in genealogy"? Yes, I think they are. You just have to make it real. Leading the group through the genealogy project this year, I started bringing a picture of the same guy every time; Oscar F. Brown, my 2nd great grandfather. Every time I met with them, we would start with holding him up, and saying "hello" to Oscar. We would repeat what we knew about him...  he lived in Nebraska, he fought in the Civil War... they were engaged. That brings them to being interested about the topic of the day, whether its different kinds of records, geography, or family crests.

Jennifer Holik, genealogist and author, will be releasing Branching Out: Genealogy for 1st-3rd Grade Students very soon. I'm excited. Very excited. You can see her other publications and blog at http://www.generationsbiz.com/. You should also check out her blog post on Archives.com, "Connecting Children With Their Past" for great tips on getting started: http://www.archives.com/experts/holik-urban-jennifer/kids-genealogy.html.